Vietnamese firms cheated by African export scams

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Vietnam's trade ministry has found that many fake African firms and organizations have cheated Vietnamese firms of their money with various ruses.

In May, a Federal Trade Commission in Togo asked the Hanoi-based Thanh Nien Vietnam, Ltd. to sign a contract and pay a fee of US$12,000 after placing an order for wheat flour worth $12 million.

The Vietnamese firm was suspicious about the fee, so it asked the trade ministry to investigate, only to find out that there was no such organization in Togo.

Another Togo firm named Sarah John Investment Corp. ordered ceramic toilet fittings from renowned local maker Viglacera Viet Tri in northern Vietnam and asked the latter to pay $3,500 for an export permit to the African nation.

It was found out later that Togo doesn't require exporters to get a permit or pay a selling fee, except for products whose imports are prohibited or restricted.

Likewise, Phong Phu Trading and Investment Promotion Joint Stock Company in Ho Chi Minh City once received an order from a firm in Cameroon, whose representative Ets Kasarachi asked it to pay $1,240 to get a permit from Cameroon's Ministry of Industrial Development and Trade.

But the ministry clarified that foreign firms are not required to pay money for selling goods to Cameroon.

Several fraudsters have also presented themselves as government organizations.

For instance, some Vietnamese firms recently received notices from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that they hade won contracts each worth dozens of thousands of dollars to supply clothes, foods or medicine to Nigeria.

Emails from NDDC then invited the firms to visit the country and sign the contracts as well as to pay legal fees for different papers.

It turned out that the NDDC is a government management agency not authorized to invite bids or sign commercial contracts; and that it had never sent out the notices or the emails.

The Vietnam Trade Office in Nigeria said all papers and contracts sent to Vietnam firms under the NDDC identity were fake.

As more Vietnamese firms are enhancing trade with Africa and looking to the continent as a new market for exports, especially of agriculture produce, many have become targets of scams.

Ly Quoc Hung, head of the Africa, Western and South Asia Markets Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said Internet fraud was widespread in Africa and many people would pretend to be state agencies and cheat gullible firms and individuals of large sums of money.

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